Unable to persuade a school district to drop a mascot name that offends them, some American Indian students at the University of Northern Colorado have named their intramural basketball team "The Fighting Whities."
Or, maybe not.
Solomon Little Owl, director of Native American Student Services at UNC, said Tuesday afternoon that the team is not called "The Fighting Whities" but "The Fighting Whites." He said several days of news stories, including national coverge, about the team name have been in error.
"I'm not sure how that 'Whities' name got started," Little Owl told TheDenverChannel on Tuesday.
But Charles Cuny, an Ogalala Lakota and founder of the team called the team "The Whities" in an interview with 7NEWS Tuesday.
Even the Greeley Tribune
, which broke the story on Sunday, reported the team name as the "Whities." TheDenverChannel picked up the story Monday from the Associated Press, which called the team "Whities."
Both Denver dailies reported the story Tuesday, calling the team the "Whities" and reporting that the name "evolved" from the "Whites."
Little Owl said he could not explain how the mix-up over the name occurred, or why he waited until Tuesday to set the record straight.
One thing is certain: the team T-shirts say "Go Fightin' Whites."
The team chose a white man as its mascot to raise awareness and understanding of stereotypes that some cultures endure.
"The message is, let's do something that will let people see the other side of what it's like to be a mascot," Little Owl said. "I am really offended by this mascot issue, and I hope the people that support the Eaton mascot will get offended by this."
The team is made up of American Indians, Hispanics and Anglos. They wear jerseys that say "Every thang's going to be all white."
"It's not meant to be vicious, it is meant to be humorous," said Ray White, a Mohawk American Indian on the team. "It puts people in our shoes, and then we can say, 'Now you know how it is, and now you can make a judgement."'
White said many people don't understand how it feels to be victims of a stereotype.
They are upset with Eaton High School for using an American Indian caricature on the team logo. The team is called the Reds.
Eaton School District superintendent John Nuspl said the logo is not derogatory and called the group's criticism insulting. "Their interpretations are an insult to our patrons and blatantly inaccurate," he said. "There's no mockery of Native Americans with this."
Cuny said he went to an American Indian Catholic high school with a mascot called the Red Cloud Crusaders, after a famous chief of the Lakota Indians.
Having a white mascot is a way to make people more aware of American Indian issues, he said.
"We live in a politically correct society, and sometimes Indians get overlooked," he said. "There are so few Indians who have clout that there are a lot of things that go unsettled."
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